This Sunday sees the return of Racing in Hong Kong as the new season gets underway at Sha Tin. With just 6-days to go until the action gets underway there are very few opportunities left to assess the horses likely to make fast start to the 2023-24 campaign. Today saw another set of key Barrier Trials on the track at Sha Tin, with several high profile names stepping up their preparation for their seasonal return.
Lucky Sweynesse was the biggest star on show as he made his return in a 1,000m trial, finishing 2nd to the 106-rated Victor the Winner. Having broken nicely, he quickly settled under Zak Purton and breezed nicely on the outside of the field. Much will be made of the performance of the winner as he rallied well to close down his higher rated rival, but Victor the Winner was awash with sweat and looked to be asked for a far more significant effort in order to get his head in front in the closing stages. He has won 5 of his 8 starts in Hong Kong, but the temptation to think that he will be capable of matching the levels set by Lucky Sweynesse last year is not an accurate reflection of this form.
The fastest time of the day was run by Kurpany, who completed the 1,000m at Conghua in 57.72s. As a 98-rated horse he was entitled to win this, but he showed good early speed and was always in control of the contest in a time that dipped slightly below the course standard of 57.79. After a promising campaign in 2021-22, he missed 7-months between April and November 2022 and never seemed to get over that absence in 5 starts this year, although he did show some signs of a return to form when he finished 3rd on his last start at Happy Valley. This was a pleasing performance and he shaped like a horse who was back to his best and the time would suggest that he is close to peak fitness, which bodes well for his next start.
The final horse I would like to highlight is more of a hunch, but there have been very few winners of the Barrier Trials who have made ground from the rear and so in that way at least, Carroll Street was eye-catching when winning over 1,000m at Sha Tin. He has been largely disappointing in his career so far, albeit running at a reasonable level but despite the relatively slow pace, he seemed to quicken with ease and make up ground on the leaders to win this trial going away at the line. His best form has come in the autumn and so there is every reason to believe that he will be worth following in the opening weeks of the new season.
The results and ratings for the Barrier trials run at Sha Tin today can be found below.